From June 6-17th, the Sydney Film Festival will spread throughout the city for its annual celebration of cinematic excellence. With venues ranging from the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George St, to HOYTS Entertainment Quarter, as well as the Festival Hub at Town Hall, it’s easy to access the breadth of Australian and international films.
This year’s theme is 65 Years Of Stories, reflecting festival director Nashen Moodley’s passion for film’s power to share a diversity of human experiences: “I think the impact of festivals, wherever they are, is to influence the individuals who see those films to experience a situation so different from their own, in a country so distant from their own, and understand how all people have the same concerns, the same desires in many ways.”
Opening night and closing night are definite festival highlights: SFF opens with a bang on June 6 with New Zealand-born comedy The Breaker Upperers, directed by and starring Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami; and executive produced by the brilliant Taika Waititi. On June 17, the festival wraps up with the heart-warming indie comedy Hearts Beat Loud, directed by Brett Haley, and starring Parks and Recreation favourite Nick Offerman, as well as Kiersey Clemons and Toni Collette.
In between these two highlights, the program is filled with the 12 films battling it out in the SFF Official 2018 Competition. Each year, the Sydney Film Prize jury seeks to find “that rare but thrilling film that truly moves the art form forward. Innovative, provocative or controversial, they broaden our understanding of the world and say important things in original ways”.
From Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a true story about an African American cop who successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan; to politically-charged comedy-dramas like Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post (set in a gay conversion camp) and Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib (about the lives of Palestinians living in Israel); this year’s selection is sure to provide a fierce competition.
For those who just want to dip their toe into the world of critically acclaimed film, check out the many short films scattered throughout the program. Barbara by Larissa Behrendt and Marieka Walsh is an animated short about a Noongar grandmother’s fight to get her granddaughter back, while Eryk Lenartowicz’s Dots is an absurdist black comedy set in a small Aussie town plagued by a mysterious fatal disease.
Recognising the importance of the #TIMESUP movement on the film industry in particular, the SFF18 includes many female-led and created films. In Half the Picture, female US filmmakers discuss the rarity of their kind, featuring the likes of Ava DuVernay (13th, Selma) and Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World).
The Screenability initiative further recognises the importance of often-underrepresented voices. With six cutting-edge works, from documentary films The Sign for Love and Stuttering - My Constant Companion, and short films Broken, Intimate Encounters 20 Years On, Tip of My Tongue, and To Know Him, SFF18 is providing a platform for filmmakers with disabilities to be recognised for their contributions to the industry.
On top of the stellar collection of films on show, the SFF Hub at Town Hall promises to provide a 360-degree festival experience with filmmaker talks, panels, parties and an expanded VR program. Open to the public every night and selected days, Moodley says the hub is “the beating heart of the Festival”. Another festival highlight is VR content collective BADFAITH’s curation of 17 immersive films, including Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs VR and BADFAITH’s own Storm Riders.
Tickets are on sale now, and get in quick to avoid missing out. For the full SFF18 program and extra details on events, parties and more, visit the SFF website here: https://www.sff.org.au/